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Lucy Stock is a columnist for the Irish News

Why Are My Teeth So Sensitive?

by Lucy Stock BDS DipImpDent RCS (Eng)

Published in the Irish News . 29.01.2014

Up to 1 in 8 of us winces from time to time due to sensitive teeth. Although sensitivity affects people of all ages, those between the ages of 25 and 50 are more commonly affected and the condition is slightly more prevalent in women. So what is setting our teeth on edge and what can be done about it? There are many different causes of sensitive teeth and your dentist often has to turn detective in order to find out what’s going on. 

The outer layer of a tooth is made up of hard enamel and if this is dissolved away by acidy foods the softer inner dentine layer can become exposed. Dentine is made up of millions of tiny tubes and its thought that the movement of your saliva pumping through these exposed tubes causes the tooth nerve to be stimulated causing pain. When your gums receed this also exposes the sensitive part of the tooth and people with gum recession often report more sensitivity when eating very cold and very hot foods or while brushing their teeth.

Similarly a decayed tooth can give trouble. A small hole in your tooth will be painless however as the hole enlarges it grows into the dentine part of the tooth which gives pain when eating cold things. If the decay is very deep and near the inner nerve of the tooth then your tooth will start to feel sore to hot things like tea. A less well known cause of tooth sensitivity can be due to how your teeth bite together. If your teeth don’t meet in harmony then teeth can be overloaded giving pain. In extreme cases the tooth can even crack. So it’s really important to discover the cause of the sensitivity so that your dentist can advise on the best course of treatment.

Some of the treatments used to settle sensitive teeth: